The Changing Face of Newmarket
(2) The Rise and Fall of the Cinema in Newmarket
The picture below shows The Kingsway Cinema staff on their outing in 1929
and recalls the old 1907
Music Hall song "Put me Among the Girls"- the manager cetainly seems to be popular with his staff.
It was kindly sent by John Banks, who now lives in Victoria, British Columbia who says that it was hand
coloured by his father Frank. John has postings on the Correspondence pages (January 2013)
John has sent another copy of the picture identifying some of the girls, including his mother and the pianist - the laughing lady wearing a hat
5th from right (most films were still silent at the time and relied on piano accompaniment for dramatic effect). The names can be supplied on request.
The Kingsway Cinema c.1925
The Victoria Cinema. This was in Victoria Mansions, later known as The Carlton Hotel, the imposing building on the north side of the High Street that was demolished in the 1970s. Tne Victoria cinema operated during the Great War and the 1920s but was gone by the time the Kingsway opened, probably about 1927.
In September 1907 a great tragedy occurred in Newmarket Town Hall (the building on Rutland Hill now being converted to a restaurant) which was in use as a temporary bioscope (cinema). The hall was overcrowded and the projector, which used incandescent limstone as the illuminating medium, was knocked over resulting in a fire. Panic ensued and there were many casualties. As a result of this fire and other similar tragedies the Cinematograph Act of 1909 was passed, which laid down safety standards.
Update 2013. The old Kingsway building is currently occupied by Innocence Nightclub.
* The Doric is De Niro's Nightclub and Pacinos Bar.
Memories of The Kingsway and The Doric Cinemas (extract from Rodney Vincent's book about village life in the thirties and forties "A Tanner Will Do")
Rivalling the participant entertainment, ‘the flicks’ were at the height of their popularity. In Newmarket during the late thirties two cinemas flourished - the Kingsway and The Doric. Both buildings still in the High Street near the corner of The Avenue.
On 1st March 1937 a new and up to date cinema, The Doric, opened with Will Hay in ‘Good Morning Boys’. With pleasantly rounded façade and fluted columns the Doric even had a cafe upstairs where patrons could meet before the show, for tea. As this extravagance added some two shillings each to the cost it remained a luxury for the minority. At the Kingsway special sixpenny shows on Saturday mornings brought in the kids to see Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy or George Formby.
Cinemas had a plush atmosphere exuding an air of opulence and an evening out became a real social occasion. A world of romance and excitement opened up as the torch-waving usherette showed the patrons to their well upholstered seats (ninepence or a shilling downstairs, one and six or two and thruppence in the balcony) to become engrossed in the latest epic from Hollywood. For a couple of hours the villagers were transported from their simple lives. The young man’s arm crept around his girl’s shoulders as she assumed some of the glamour of the current screen goddesses - Alice Faye, Carole Lombard or Dorothy Lamour . . . .
During the war years the cinemas became even more popular and long queues formed for the evening shows, with uniforms well in evidence. Wartime morale-boosting films like ‘Target for Tonight’, ‘One of our Aircraft is Missing’, ‘Mrs Miniver’ or ‘In Which we Serve’ were sell-outs. For the first half of the show a crowd stood at the back of the auditorium while awaiting seats while the projector beam cut through the smoke haze of scores of cigarettes. During the interval the usherettes came round with Eldorado ices but as the war progressed ice-cream disappeared. Instead the audience was treated to ‘Dig for Victory’, ‘Buy War Bonds’ and similar patriotic messages flashed on the screen. Finally the curtains drew and a solemn playing of ‘God save the King’ had everyone standing to attention except for the few who had made their escape at the back. The audience streamed out into the darkness and rain of the real world - it usually seemed to be raining when I came out of the cinema. Those of us from the village found their dripping bikes, peeled apart their sticky oilskin capes and tackled the long and exhausting bike ride home, the last bus having long since gone.
....from John Marshall, a stable lad in Newmarket 1945 - 1950. (Correspondence September 2008)
I was interested to hear the picture houses are now night clubs. I well remember the Doric and the Kingsway. We lads used to sneak in via the emergency exit. We were so poorly paid that it was the only way sometimes to see the latest film. One Saturday night I had sneaked in when the usherette asked me to show my ticket . For some very strange reason I said "you fetch the manager and I will not only show you my ticket but demand an apology." This from an undersized 14 year old. I sat back very pleased with myself. Just a few minutes later the manager and the the doorman, an ex-sergeant came from behind, lifted my under 5 stone body and threw me out of the place and banned me for 4 weeks - from both the Doric and the Kingsway. However we saw some good films at both places and I have fond memories of both.
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